In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell introduced the world to the 10,000 hour rule. It states that, to achieve mastery of a subject, you must complete 10,000 hours of practice. The rule now belongs to conventional wisdom, and in countless instances it’s been doled out that, to become great writers, one must write every day.
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” — Someone who is not Richard Bach
And the rule seems to work — Stephen King, one of the most prolific writers out there (at least by wordcount) famously writes 2,000 words every day. Jerry Seinfeld writes every day, as well. So do many, many others.
But how do you bring yourself to sit down, and get to writing day in, and day out? Start by organizing your morning. A habitual activity necessarily needs a first domino to set it off, and making the morning hours count will be it.
Wake Up At the Same Time Each Day and Do Something
If you’re a stay-at-home writer, leisure traps are everywhere. From “just ten more minutes” of sleep in the mornings to “well, one more episode couldn’t hurt” when you know it’s time to tuck in, every waking moment is an opportunity to go to bed later. And it’s not a problem just for those on a flexible schedule, either.
The solution isn’t an alarm clock — though it’s obviously instrumental to success in this area. It’s a reason to wake up.
It can be big or small — brushing your teeth or going for a run — but you need to know what you’re waking up for. Even if you’re a huge lover of the snooze button, you don’t usually oversleep when you’ve got an important appointment first thing in the morning, right? Use that purpose, and create one artificially. Create a thing you need to do first thing when you wake up — it can be as simple as making your bed. More on this later.
Establish a Routine for the First Hour of the Morning
Expanding on the previous point, you need a morning routine. “There’s no way I can do the same thing each morning,” you say. But you already do do the same thing each morning. It’s only a matter of substituting unhelpful habits for better ones, that’s it!
What to do:
Make your bed. It might seem unnecessary, but there’s a reason your parents insisted you do it. It creates a symbolic line between night-time and day-time. If you get up and make your bed right away, you won’t loaf in it for 30 minutes checking texts and how your mobile games progressed overnight. You can’t go back to bed if it’s made, and when you do something first thing in the morning, it sets off the first productivity domino for the day.
Have Breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day! If you don’t really feel hungry in the mornings, at least try eating something light, like an apple or some other fruit. It’ll give you an energy boost that lasts longer than an espresso shot, that’s for sure.
Exercise. There’s no need to exert yourself if you don’t feel like it, but even some light stretching will be helpful to get that blood rushing.
What not to do:
Check email or social media. You’ve heard this before, you know it’s not good for you, yet you do it anyway. Next time you pick up your phone to scroll through the posts you missed while you were sleeping, ask yourself: would I really be missing out on anything if I didn’t read these? Ditto with email. It’s a huge timesink, and should be given two hours a day, at most.
Spend any time planning anything. Ideally, you should have your day planned out before you wake up. The only excuses for not having an exact plan for the day is freak weather phenomena or another person not confirming your plans promptly.
Get on With Your To-do List
We’ve already covered the GTD method, and how to use it with Write!. Read up on it, and use those methods to create excellent to-do’s.
And don’t fall into the trap of scheduling your day to the brim — if you’re the type of person who needs organizational methods to keep on the productivity track, you might also be the type of person to overestimate how much you can do in a day, especially if you’re distraction-prone. Read our post on the one-thing-at-a-time method of time management, and never have another unproductive day again.